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Interior Design Seniors Readying for Next Steps

January 12, 2022
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Many seniors enrolled in Anderson University’s School of Interior Design continued their internships into the academic year, several with jobs waiting for them in May. Pictured, clockwise from left: Gabrielle McKillop, Mabry Collins, Madison Wassendorf, Olivia Bagnasco and Morgan Parker.

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As seniors enrolled in Anderson University’s School of Interior Design move into their final semester, many have continued to work for internship sponsors after their internship was completed in June. 

According to Anne Martin, dean of the School of Interior Design, internships may be unpaid; however, following the internship, the students working have been compensated. Several seniors already have jobs waiting for them come May when they graduate. 

Martin commented, “I find this significant as never before have we had this many students continue to work; eight of 15 seniors have the promise of a job months prior to graduation. Most of these continued to work following their internship into July and August and never stopped when classes started in August.”

Gabrielle McKillop continues interning at St. Louis Design Alliance, an architectural firm that works on a variety of commercial and residential projects, as well as churches and schools. Now working remotely, she’s part of a project to renovate an older apartment building in St. Louis.

“I enjoy the fact that it’s such a practical art form, because I’m designing spaces that people need and they’re going to live in and are going to work in, so I really enjoy being able to kind of work together, especially now that I’m working on real projects with actual architects,” McKillop said. She feels blessed to have received a job offer halfway through the summer and that the School of Interior Design prepared her well, not only in all the technical aspects, but also in the soft skills. 

“My boss let me lead this client meeting and was just like ‘I’m really glad you could take it over. You did a really great job. You know exactly what you’re doing.’ That’s been really encouraging, that I’m able to keep up because of the practice I’ve gotten,” McKillop said.

Prior to her summer internship, Mabry Collins had spent three weeks doing an unpaid internship in California. Then this past spring she landed an internship at Studio McGee, which for her is a dream come true.

“I’ve been following them on Instagram for years,” Collins said. She balances her senior year coursework with full-time work for Studio McGee, conducting routine client meetings via Zoom to work on residential design projects. Collins feels the School of Interior Design has prepared her for the challenges of working on multiple projects for clients.

“I’ve had to juggle 20-25 clients at a time sometimes, which is very challenging, but I feel I’m prepared for that since we have to juggle so many projects at a time in our interior design classes,” said Collins. After she graduates in May she’s considering the possibility of moving to Utah where the company is based.

Olivia Bagnasco enjoys working on high-end residential projects as a design assistant at Ridgeline Construction Group in Greenville, South Carolina. For Bagnasco, experience in real-world projects continues to reinforce the concepts she’s learned in the classroom. Bagnasco enjoys the family-oriented nature of Ridgeline and how positive her learning experience has been. She says the staff at Ridgeline have mentored her as she works on projects, many of which are multimillion-dollar homes.

“The programs we learn on AutoCAD and Revit, I use those every single day. Learning those programs has been very helpful,” Bagnasco said. “When the client loves their house and the selections you make, you can see it on their face… You’re literally building their dream home and it’s usually something they have been waiting for years to do and they’re finally able to do it. So being able to execute what they’ve dreamed of for so long is amazing.”

After finishing up her summer internship with V Starr, an award-winning design firm in South Florida, Morgan Parker shifted her focus to returning to Anderson University for her senior year. But then she received a phone call from her boss and an offer to continue working for V Starr remotely. 

“They hired me as a design assistant, so really it’s just a supporting role to everyone else in the firm,” Parker said. “One of the main things I’m doing is research at the beginning of the project, looking into the locality, the demographics of the area and how that’s going to fit into our story and concept development. Then I will use that information to set up the initial presentations. I help a lot with the initial concept development. I’m also doing some 3D rendering components–very similar to what I was doing last summer.” 

Parker appreciates the flexibility given her by V Starr as she continues to balance her work for them with class work. Best of all, she was recently offered a job and will join the V Starr staff after she graduates in May.

Madison Wasendorf gained valuable experience from two firms this past year. When the firm she interned with over summer was unable to offer a remote internship in the fall, she set her sights on another firm she had on her “wish list,” Panageries, a Greenville firm specializing in high-end residential design. 

“It was such an awesome experience just getting to work, not only at one firm, but also a second one; I felt like it gave me a lot more experience,” Wasendorf said. 

“We were working on designing a small condo for them; also bigger houses. I would help design things such as the fireplace, custom cabinetry. They had me working in Revit a lot,” said Wasendorf, who appreciates not only being pushed to be at her best professionally but also being able to master industry-standard design software, which impressed the staff at Panageries. 

Martin commented, “Since the inception of the School of Interior Design, a strong focus in the curriculum has been currency with the most current releases of  digital programs in Architecture and Interior Design, such as Revit and AutoCAD, thus the marketability and attractiveness of an Anderson Interior Design student/major to an employer to be able to work remotely during the Senior year.”

Anderson University is one of only nine Christian institutions of higher learning to offer an interior design program. All faculty are professionally credentialed NCIDQ, AIA and LEED accredited professionals, with professional practice experience.

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